I read a Dharma talk a few weeks ago by the late Zen teacher Zenkei Blanche Hartman about Birth and Death. She spoke about one of the many practices Buddhists use to remind themselves of those non-negotiable realities all humans face: The Five Remembrances.
Those remembrances are:
- I am of the nature to grow old. I can’t avoid ageing.
- I am of the nature to get sick. I can’t avoid illness.
- I am of the nature to die. I can’t avoid death.
- All I hold dear and everyone I love are of the nature to change. I can’t avoid being separated from them.
- My actions are my true possessions. I can’t avoid the consequences of my actions.
Since I read her talk I’ve adopted the practice as my own and kept those remembrances in the background of my mind.
It’s hard to notice someone ageing if you see them every day but if you find old photos of them, like I found of my parents from a decade ago when they had less wrinkles, less grey in their hair and less body fat, their age, as well as my own, hits home.
Yesterday I heard a surgeon on the radio talking about people waiting on organ donor lists and just this evening my parents drove my nan to hospital because doctors think she may have deep vein thrombosis.
A few days ago, on a morning walk around the village where I live, I saw two men in black suits carrying a stretcher out of a house with a body bag on top.
Last weekend a friend at work left for a higher paying job and, looking ahead into the not so distant future, I’ll soon leave the house and village I’ve grown fond of over many years to live elsewhere.
That my actions are my true possessions is more difficult to see because I can’t always link what I’ve done with what and who I have in my life in a way that’s satisfying to me but nevertheless I do feel, and somewhat understand, that this is in some part my karma.